Anasuya Sarabhai was born in 1885 into a business family of Ahmedabad. She pioneered women’ labor movement in India. She founded the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (Majoor Mahajan Sangh), India’s oldest union of textile workers, in 1920. In 1912 she went to London for higher studies where she got influenced by Fabian society and suffragette movement.
- In 1913, she returned to India and started working with the disempowered communities. She began by opening a school for poor students of all castes, whom she would bathe and teach herself. Next, she opened creches and toilets for women, a maternity home and even a hostel for harijan girls in her home.
- Anasuya took up the task to change the situation of mill workers. In 1914 when an epidemic hit the Ahemdabad the condition of the mill workers deteriorated further and they approached Anasuya to take up their cause. She gave an ultimatum to the mill owners and even went against her brother, Ambalal, who was the then-president of the Mill Owners’ Association, demanding better wages and working ambiance for the laborers. Her endeavor was successful and the trade union movement in India took its baby steps.
She was supported in her work by Mahatma Gandhi and in 1918, Anasuya managed mill owners to accede to the demand of Ahmedabad weavers for a 35% wage hike. Tens of thousands of workers participated in the protest, laying the foundation for Gujarat’s oldest labour union, Majoor Mahajan Sangh (Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association or TLA), that was established on February 25, 1920.